The Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area) — SACHA is committed to the fight against sexual violence and oppression. We recognize that sexual violence and its intersections are upheld by social inequalities, including those of race, poverty, and homelessness that create conditions of vulnerability that produce sexual violence. As such, we recognize the advocacy of the volunteers with the Encampment Support Network here in Hamilton to advocate for unhoused neighbours and echo the calls of Black community leaders to:
a) the Hamilton Police to unconditionally drop the charges against all six activists;
b) the Hamilton Police Board and/or Attorney General to open a judicial inquiry into the actions of all police present at JC Beemer Park on November 24th and at the Hamilton Police Station (HPS) on November 26th;
c) finally, we call on the City of Hamilton and Council to demand the immediate end to encampment evictions and to recognize the harm to Indigenous, Black and low income residents.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new challenges and barriers to the already vulnerable unhoused community. Over the past year, temporary measures to homelessness, including the often violent evictions, have been employed with little regard for the wellbeing of the evicted. On numerous occasions, people have had their sole possessions destroyed or discarded by police and city workers. While some shelter beds have been provided, shelters are frequently at capacity during the cold winter months, leaving many with nowhere to go. Additionally we see that even when shelter space is available there are so many barriers preventing many from accessing it. We know that shelters are not a solution to homelessness. Many unhoused people, especially women and Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ youth, find themselves in these precarious and vulnerable positions as they flee violence in the home. Studies on homeless people’s experiences of sexual violence finds rates as high as 35 times that of housed people.1 Encountering violence by police as they flee violence and seek a safe place to stay is further traumatizing. Additionally we know that Black and Indigenous people are over represented in encampments and face the additional threat of racist violence, and are disproportionately criminalized. As such we vehemently condemn the violent actions taken by police at JC Beemer Park, the Hamilton Central Police Station, and the lack of recognition of their continued violence of criminalizing Black and racialized advocates.
Sexual violence is both a public health and social issue that is exacerbated by the lack of accessible, safe, and dignified housing. Dr. Andrew Bond, Director of the Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) observed that encampment evictions “violated human rights law, re-traumatized vulnerable populations and compromised their access to health services”.1 The use of encampment evictions maintains the idea that the problem are the unhoused, rather than a holistic approach to homelessness that addresses it at the source. As such we abhor the use of encampment evictions, the destruction of property, and the shaming of unhoused neighbours as a solution to homelessness. Instead, we will continue to advocate for the City of Hamilton to offer long term solutions that respect the dignity and human rights of unhoused individuals and recognized that our communities deserve more.